WASHINGTON, May 4. /TASS/. The US Department of Defense is preparing to remove Turkey from a program on creating US advanced F-35 multirole fighters over Ankara’s deal on buying Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said.
Last week Shanahan met with leadership from Lockheed Martin and United Technologies Corporation to hold a detained discussion on the consequences of excluding Turkey from the F-35 program.
"I want air-tight plans that have near-zero execution risk so that we can flawlessly deliver on all the other F-35s to, you know, our other customers," he said. "So part of me going through there is and meeting with folks is like, show me where the risk is. Let's talk about what kind of decisions we have to make to mitigate that risk. But at the same time, we're talking with Turkey."
The acting Pentagon chief stressed that Turkey remains a strategic US partner, noting that bilateral relations are better than two or four months ago "just because of the frequency of the communication."
He reiterated that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system would result in its exclusion from the F-35 program. "Now, S-400s and F-35s don't go together. That's a big bump."
Earlier Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon told TASS that Washington considered Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 as Moscow’s strategic trick aimed at driving a wedge between Ankara and its Western allies. The US believes that the S-40 contract poses a threat to the security of its F-35 program.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could cooperate with any other country if the US refused to supply F-35 fighters. The Defense News reported citing its source in the Turkish Armed Forces that Ankara could turn to Moscow in this case.
In November 2016, reports emerged that Russia and Turkey were negotiating an S-400 missile system supply deal. In September 2017, Moscow confirmed the deal had been signed, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had already transferred the advance payment. The US is actively trying to cripple Turkey’s attempts to purchase Russia’s S-400.